October 18, 2005

Curiouser and Curiouser Redux

I haven't posted on the Judy Miller situation lately. Bottom line: I think that The Times (and its lawyers) did the right thing by sticking by the reporter, standing up for important First Amendment rights and principles, and fighting the good fight. That said, it now appears that this matter is devolving into a journalistic nightmare for The Times.

There is an increasing stream of coverage and opinion on the Judy Miller-Plame-Wilson-Rove-Libby-WHIG situation. By way of interesting backdrop, Josh Marshall's excellent blog, Talking Points Memo, has a link to a summer 2004 piece in New York magazine by Frank Foer, as well as a steady flow on news and comment on this matter. And The Judy Chronicles, The Judy War and Reporter, Times Are Criticized for Missteps by Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post Media Notes are all on my lunch-time reading list for today.

If you are reading this, you no doubt already have read the in-depth piece and Miller's personal account in the Sunday Times.

The lengthy piece by Adam Liptak, Don Van Natta, and Clifford Levy was a good effort, albeit one limited by a lack of cooperation by Miller. (The article states that in two interviews, Miller "generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.") The Times also has posted related documents on its Web site. The article and the additional on-line material are a good start. Let's hope we see more from The Times.

Miller's personal account perhaps raised as many questions as it answered. She couldn't remember where she got the name "Valerie Flame"? She thought she discussed the Wilson-Plame matter with other sources, but could not recall any by name? She claims to have had a security clearance, but could not be sure whether she discussed classified information with the number one advisor to the vice president? Why were her notes so vague? Doesn't she keep track of the people she interviews?

One thing that struck me in reading Miller's account: she never mentions when she promised, or when Libby demanded, confidentiality as a source. OK, maybe it is implied, but isn't it a little surprising that she does not make a point of noting the promise of confidentiality in her account?
Speaking of confidentiality, while I'm not expecting that Miller needed to meet with Libby in a garage after seeing a flag in a planter, or whatever, how secret or confidential could their relationship be when they met for a two-hour breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel located perhaps 500 feet or so from the White House?

Miller did state that she was surprised at the statement in Scooter Libby's letter about public reports of testimony by other reporters indicating that they did not discuss Plame with him, as she felt it could be perceived as an effort by Libby to say that she, too, would say she had not discussed Plame with Libby. You think?

And what about those aspens turning in clusters because their roots are connected? What did she think of that statement in Libby's letter? She never really says. Instead, she relates an incident when, unrecognized by her, Libby--bedecked in jeans, cowboy hat, and sunglasses--approached her at a rodeo in Wyoming, shortly after Miller attended a national security conference in Aspen in August 2003.

Aspens? Connected roots? An incognito Scooter dressed in his dude ranch finest? This sounds more like code or overly-written excerpts from an in-the-works spy novel by Libby, rather than a letter he surely knew would be widely published. Last night on MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews quite understandably could not stop asking his guests what they thought of that portion of Libby's letter.

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